It seems like at least once a year, the headline “video is the future of podcasting” pops back up on every news media’s transom. Some guy—and it’s always a guy—with chops in the movie, television, or streaming video industry is convinced that his idea will be the idea to finally push podcasting away from audio-only to go full-on video.
You should take those prognostications with a grain of salt. Or maybe a block of salt? While that prediction might eventually be true, we don’t live in that scifi future just yet. Today, we live in a world where many of us are getting sick of video-based communications and content.
Opting Out Of Video
I recognize that I may be projecting. And I’m certainly using far too small of a sample size to conduct this markedly not-scientific study. But for a year now video has been forced upon us. We’ve been doing things via video communication that we would have normally done in the real world. We’re doing work on video. We’re going to school on video. We use video calls to have happy hours with friends and even celebrate holidays with family via video cameras. We’re trying to stay in shape by using video workouts. And depressingly, we’re even attending funerals via video.
I’m on video calls frequently, as I’m sure you are as well. A growing trend I’m noticing is lots of blank screens when a participant chooses to not activate their video camera. It’s not that they can’t activate their camera. It’s a choice made by many people who are already sick of video.
I’m also getting a lot more phone calls than ever before. And, strangely enough, I’m choosing to initiate more phone calls, either directly with my phone or via a mobile app like Signal that lets me talk to one or more person, no video required. Those apps allow video connections, but more and more often, I just click the archaic telephone receiver icon. 📞
Now that’s really weird for me. Back when I had an office and a day job, I rarely answered my desk phone. My outbound message was said I wouldn’t check voice mail. And look at me today.
Video For Work, Audio For An Escape
Please don’t take my musings as a condemnation of video-based communications. There are massive benefits of video communications. In fact, prior grousings aside, I tend to prefer the face-to-face interactions afforded with video connections, especially when interacting with prospective clients or vendors for the first time.
I’m finding myself using audio-only as an escape. That’s probably not a surprise to you, the working podcaster. We know that people use podcasting as a way to escape the hustle-and-bustle of their busy lives, either taking some alone-time, getting some education, catching up with current events, or a myriad of other reasons that don’t require their facial expressions to be placed on display.
It helps to remember the role the original escapist media—books—played (and plays) in the larger media landscape. Books predate and have yet to be replaced by movies or television. Nor will they be replaced. At least not anytime soon.
Books and other visual media feed into one another. One does not replace the other. Yes, book series’ like The Expanse and Game of Thrones were adapted into successful visual properties. But Star Wars started as a single movie and spanned a universe of book-only content that dwarfs the visual properties that cover the same universe. (Though Disney clearly has designs on making video versions of everything related to Star Wars. But I’m digressing. Again.)
Video, be it movies, television, or streaming, didn't kill books. Just like video—any of those forms—is not going to go podcasting.
Some Words On How To Make How-To Content Better
I need to acknowledge the power of how-to video content. Millions of people loading up how-to video content clearly played a role in the success of YouTube as a platform. And all of us are better for those how-to videos existing. Chances are, whatever you want to do; someone has done it on camera and loaded it to YouTube for you to watch.
For those approaching a task for the first time, those how-to videos are extremely helpful, detailing the entire process in a step-by-step method that’s easy to pause and rewind as necessary.
But a lot of people turn to how-to information when they are stuck in the middle of a process. Getting the video to play just the part where help is needed isn’t yet a reality. And video creators are notorious for not bothering to write up accompanying text. Why should they? It’s all in the video.
Text would really help. A fully written article based on that video is skimmable. And indexable. And extremely helpful to someone who’s stuck in the middle process.
You don’t get a pass on this either, podcaster. We have the same problem when we don’t write an article based on our episode. Especially if you too are doing step-by-step or how-to content in your episodes. Unlock that stuff. Write an article. No, not just a copy/paste of the transcript. Yes, you should include a transcript, but you need a well-written article posted as well. Please?
Sickness As A Sign Of Pending Disruption
Some of us (👋) are sick of video. Media moguls continue to promote the false narrative that video is the future of podcasting. I’d bet that some entrepreneur has noticed these trends and is working on some disruptive technology. In fact, there are probably dozens or hundreds doing so, each looking for a solution that redefines what the future of video might look like.
But no, I don’t think podcasting will naturally evolve into video anytime soon Of course, I reserve the right to change my opinion on that as new disruptive forces put pressure on audio and video in the coming years.
Until that time, you keep on making amazing podcasts. And yes, your episodes probably could also do with a little more writing to accompany them. But that's on you.
Tomorrow I’m again hosting Podcast Pontifications on Clubhouse. No, I’m not recording an episode of the show on Clubhouse. I’m hosting a conversation with Podcast Pontifications listeners like yourself. We’ll be talking about how podcasters who have been in the game for a while can keep up with the rapid changes in podcasting. So come and share your ideas with all of us. Or just listen in. We’re on at 11:00a Phoenix time. That’s 10:00a Los Angeles and 1:00p in New York.
Finally, go to BuyMeACoffee.com/evoterra and support my efforts with a small donation.
I shall be back on Monday with yet another Podcast Pontifications.